The Los Angeles Angels are coming after Anaheim for $5 million– threatening the city with two lawsuits after city councilmembers decided unanimously to kill the proposed stadium land sale in May after the FBI corruption probe surfaced.
They’re also threatening to sue the city over a fire station slated to be built on the Angel Stadium parking lot as part of the $4 billion OC Vibe project.
SRB Management, headed up by team owner Arte Moreno, now wants the City of Anaheim to pay them $5 million to cover transaction costs including consultant fees, inspection fees and legal fees spent in connection with the now-dead stadium deal as well as the legal fees for the claim.
“Upon the City’s request, SRB will provide documentation of such transaction costs actually incurred by SRB,” reads the claim.
City council members canned the deal after FBI agents alleged in a sworn affidavit that former Mayor Harry Sidhu rammed it through to try to get $1 million in campaign contributions from Angels executives as well as shared confidential information during negotiations with Angels representatives.
Sidhu has denied any wrongdoing.
Councilman Jose Moreno said the city shouldn’t pay and SRB should’ve alerted city officials if Sidhu leaked information to them.
“I feel no obligation of reimbursing or paying for the cost that SRB management and Angels Baseball incurred due to the negotiation process. It wasn’t that the city willy nilly decided we’re going to cancel the deal,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Councilmembers Trevor O’Neil, Gloria Ma’ae, Jose Diaz, Stephen Faessel and Avelino Valencia did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite the corruption probe surfacing, the Angels owner pushed Anaheim councilmembers to finish the land sale – only changing his position after officials voted to kill the deal.
[Read: Angels Owner is Pushing Anaheim to Finalize Stadium Deal, Regardless of FBI Corruption Probe]
SRB management made the $5 million demand in June, but according to a September letter from SRB’s attorney Allan Abshez to Anaheim City Attorney Rob Fabela, the city never responded to the claim.
“SRB is entitled to exercise all of its reserved remedies to recover such sums from the city,” reads Abshez’ letter.
To view the Abshez letter, click here.
Anaheim city council members discussed the claim and the letter behind closed doors but took no reportable action at their Oct. 4 meeting.
Moreno, the councilman, said if they move forward with a lawsuit, it could open an opportunity to figure out exactly what happened during the negotiation process and if Sidhu did leak information to the Angels and tried to score a campaign contribution as FBI agents allege.
“I feel like the city is on solid firm ground from everything that we’ve been told. If the Angels disagree … let’s take it to a court of law and let the discovery and deposition process begin.”
Angels Refuse to Let City Build Fire Station
$5 million isn’t the only thing the Angels are after.
In his letter, Abshez also claims the city is violating their lease with the Angel’s by approving the construction of a fire station in the stadium’s parking lot.
Under the lease agreement, the city is not allowed to build or operate any permanent structure within the parking area other than the “Sportstown” development, which allows for: a professional football stadium, offices, retail and restaurants as well as hotels.
“A fire station is not a permitted use within Sportstown,” Abshez wrote.
He also wrote that if the city doesn’t fix the issue within 30 days by canceling the design-build agreement for the fire station the city would be in default on their lease.
“Tenant shall be entitled to exercise all remedies for Landlord’s Default provided by the lease (including, without limitation, the right to injunctive relief and specific performance) as well as those remedies at law and equity,” Abshez wrote.
City spokesman Mike Lyster wrote that the fire station won’t impact stadium parking.
“A Platinum Triangle station was planned as part of proposed development around the stadium. With a stadium sale and development proposal now ended, the approved city land site is a good location,” he wrote in an email last week.
Moreno said the fire station was part of the stadium sale negotiations with the Angels, but that went out the window once the deal was canned and that the team is now exercising their rights under the reinstated lease of the stadium.
“The only reason we can’t build on it right now is because the city council, led by Mayor Sidhu and four other members who voted for that deal, reinstated the original lease in January 2019 two months after Angels Baseball exercised their option out of the lease,” he said.
Moreno said the council could have renegotiated the lease to allow for the fire station to be built, but didn’t.
“That’s why we’re now stuck in this mess because of people Like Trevor O’Neil, and Stephen Faessel and Mayor Sidhu and at the time Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman willingly and in a celebratory way reinstated the lease,” he said.
Moreno said if the city builds the fire station anyway without Angels approval, they could end up in court and be forced to redo all the design and architecture plans, which can be costly.
He also said if there was any evidence of nefarious activity to reinstate the lease it could be null and void.
“Therefore, completely freeing the 153 acres from this really imbalanced and overly generous lease that Arte Moreno is benefiting from,” Moreno said.
Abshez’s letter is dated Sept. 29 – just two days after city officials unanimously approved a $4 billion development project proposed by the owners of the other major professional sports team in town – Anaheim Ducks.
[Read: New OC Vibe Development Coming to Anaheim, Helped by $400 Million Bonds]
The proposal from Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli promises to bring in 1,500 new homes – 15% of which are supposed to be affordable, thousands of new jobs, two parks, two hotels, a concert hall, restaurants, office space and parking structures on 95 acres of land around the Honda Center in the Platinum Triangle.
The fire station is being built to accommodate development in the city’s Platinum Triangle including OC Vibe.
“With the planned development in and around the Platinum Triangle area including OC Vibe, Anaheim Fire & Rescue will need an additional three strategically located fire companies. Fire Station 12 will satisfy this requirement with two companies and two paramedic units,” reads a city staff report.
Lyster said the station is being proposed to serve not only future growth in the area with OC Vibe, but thePlatinum Triangle.
“There is no impact to OCVibe with the claim. The Platinum Triangle is served today by nearby fire stations and will continue to be until a Platinum Triangle station is built,” he wrote.
In August, Angels owner Arte Moreno announced he may sell the baseball team – a couple months after the deal was upended.
At the Oct. 4 meeting, Councilman Moreno (no relation to Arte Moreno) called for a review and discussion of Angel’s Baseball obligations under their lease towards upkeep and maintenance of the stadium.
“So that we can learn what our remedies might be given that Angels Baseball themselves have said that it needs over a $180 million in maintenance and upkeep to modernize the stadium,” he said at the meeting, adding that it should be their responsibility.
“That is my understanding – under the lease – their obligation.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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